Mon 19 Apr 2021 03:09
COG50 at 6kts, smooth loping sea, almost zero wind 2knots from E ish. 2555nm to Lanzarote wpt and VMG 5knots.
The lovely wind that Simon organised this evening has flippin disappeared, so whereas I was actually sailing at 8knots for a while this (Sunday) evening... the flimsy wind died so just motoring with main up now. Oh well. Not much wind within several hundred miles for a while yet.
All ok on Mojo. Actually there's only me on Mojo. But actually almost everything is very fine - I've been aiming to get the boat so I trusted the systems enough to sail it alone, and at last (with the help of lots of boatfixers on both sides of the Atlantic since I bought it over 3 years ago in 2017) - I do. But there's other factors too.
See, the normal gig with a long distance sailing boat is to Get Crew. This is my 15th Atlantic crossing and for all but one I took crew - at least one other person. Then you have watch systems, rotas and all that. And yes, have some fun, jokes and pranks and/or Nurdle Drurdle, excellent stuff. But the more crew you have, the more Issues there are. Oh, it's not that having crew is Invariably Bad - I've skippered long distances with over fifty different people as crew all around the world over the years.
But the inescapable fact with crew is that it reduces flexibility. For example, you can't get a transat crew together and then say at the last minute - Hey, instead of sailing the Atlantic I've decided I'll park the boat a few islands south in Grenada, okay?! Not really Matthew, no! Or the other way around - if crew are expecting a sunshine island-hopping trip to Grenada and THEN I wanted to change my mind and go to Lanzarote at the last minute? Again, it's not on. Whereas singlehanded (or, yeah, with a partner, close family) changing plans quite radically is easy peasy. In fact, I could turn around right now and head for somewhere else - not Lanzarote. I probably won't, but it's an option. With non-family crew - much less so.
The other inflexibility with crew is Timing. For this trip, I only saw the "weather window" to leave a week ahead - which is very short notice to assemble a transat crew, especially with current flight restrictions. If you get crew - even if you know them well - you've kinda gotta set the start date some weeks in advance and leave on the best day you can find.
All these combined factors - regardless of how wonderful your crew - means there's unwelcome Extra Pressure - you gotta go cos you SAID you were going, and now we've bought all the food, and maybe flights at the other end too. You can't "wait another week" cos they've got a life somewhere else. Hmmm.
I got a taste for flexible adventuring from aged only 7 or so, from my Dad, of course. We used to go fellwalking from Yorkshire to The Lake District, Scotland or Snowdonia, up at dawn, be at the bottom of the hill still early, then walk fast up and down the mountain, running downhill or even scree-running where the hill comes down too. Others setting off from the car park had loads of gear, rucsacs, sandwiches and everything - we just walked/ran up and down with a map and boiled sweets and not much else at all, although it was always summertime - June to September. There (or were) photos of me in Plimsolls halfway up Crib Goch or even in a snowfield on Ben Nevis. And it was all fine.
Anyway, the point is, sometimes the weather looked ok...but then it wasn't. So sometimes Dad would say we should turn back. Not often, but not never. I remember being amazed the first time - Dad (yes, Dad!) ditching all that Keep Going spirit, Never Give Up blah blah. But it was actually an important experience, and of course we turned back. Sometimes "Stuff This" is the best strategy. But it's less and less easy to change plans the more preparation you've done, and the more others are involved. The more people, the more your time-window for the Great Adventure is limited. You Gotta Go, Skipper. And everyone else is going? See?
On top of all that, it's been a bit unpredictable this winter of course, new lockdowns, borders closed and so on. Trinidad (for example) closed its borders in March 2020 and as far as I'm aware (I used to park the boat there so they'd email) it's still shut. Sheesh!
So whatever, I was keen to get the boat so it was useable single-handed. Singlehanding across the Atlantic (actually, most oceans) is relatively straightfoward - big open space and (away from the coasts) not too busy with shipping or fishing boats. I've changed the saloon seating so I can sleep near the helm and the design of the boat with "galley up" suits a small crew, fewer stairs etc.
There's lots of systems to help me run the boat, but I'll just mention two at the moment cos I'm droning on a bit, both of which have been installed with the help of friend Mike, who's done over 30 solo crossings on his boat "Quinn" which is actually slightly shorter than the width/beam of Mojo, so somewhat more of a mission that this. Anyway, he's something of an expert at electronics and setting up the satellite phones, see, so he goes to Las Palmas to work on the Bluewater Boats Leaving Season there in October-December... and then he sails to St Martin in the Caribbean, which is the main boatfixing island in the carib, and from which many leave to return (me) or go on westwards to Panama.
The first and perhaps most important thing Mike has sorted for me is an Exceptionally Loud Alarm. This triggers when the alarms on the Radar or AIS go off, and which are normally just some mild beeping. No good single-handed - I need it VERY F. LOUD. Mike has one of these on his his boat, and which I very clearly remember from when I crashed out there one night in Las Palmas - 8am next morning on Mike's boat I just had to get off and run away down the pontoon. Mike's alarm clock used the same hooter and was SHOCKINGLY loud... and this is similar. It's so loud that I have (and need) a quick "off" switch otherwise with the thing going repeatedly I won't be able to think/breathe. I've set a radar "guard zone" around the boat of 10miles, giving me my own personal 314sq mile "bubble" - the hooter goes batshit mad if some other boat comes within that circle. Or even a storm cloud.
The second (I think) worthwhile adjustment is a small change in Mojo's broadcast signal on the AIS. Automatic Identification System is the digital broadcasting signal between ships (and to shore stations) that improves on radar - instead of just a blob on the screen (like Radar), AIS gives the direction in which the ship is going, and its name so you can call it up on VHF. But instead of the broadcast name from Mojo being just "Mojo" as is usual ...it now broadcasts "Mojo Solo Sailor" to kinda keep the big metal ships even further away than normal. I think this is quite good! Thing is, I might be asleep, see? But not for long of course, and the alarms would pick them up ... but this encourages them to move first. I saw another ship adjust course over 20 miles away this morning, so although I can't ever be sure, it might be doing exactly what I want. The closest anything has been so far is that ship, which stayed over three miles away. Beat that for yer flippin social distancing! Or something even more scary "Mojo Weapons Testing Vessel Keep Clear" would be another option, possibly. Anyway yeah, I could have done this ages ago - just tellem I was solo when actually not? Heheh. I'm not changing it back.